Mobile medical unit makes debut at local B.C. event

A mobile medical unit in British Columbia, designed to provide onsite emergency health care following a disaster such as earthquake, fire or disease, has undergone its first deployment in mid-August.

A joint initiative between British Columbia’s Ministry of Health Services and the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), the mobile medical unit—once fully installed—will be equipped with the same systems used to register and assess patients upon entry to a hospital, where the information will be readily available should the patient choose to continue health care at an actual hospital.

It will also be equipped with a tracking satellite dish for data uplink and downlink as well as uninterrupted videoconferencing capabilities with hospitals.

One such mobile unit made its debut this month when it was on standby at the Abbotsford International Airshow in city of Abbotsford, B.C., where the mobile team worked alongside local teams from St. John ambulance and the province’s ambulance services.

That’s just one of many possible scenarios where the mobile health care can be deployed, said Theresa Kennedy, interim director of public affairs with the PHSA.

“It really could be a number of things that happen,” said Kennedy.

Besides more obvious events such as earthquake and mass fire, one scenario could be a docked cruise ship with a mass disease outbreak among passengers. “(It’s) something you won’t want to bring into a hospital or clinical setting,” said Kennedy.

Stephen May, senior public affairs officer with British Columbia Ministry of Health Services, described the mobile medical unit as “an important provincial asset” built to augment local area medical services in the event of disaster.

“We could also foresee using the MMU to manage the surge pressure on local hospitals in the event a boat arrives with refugees,” said May.

Apart from meeting those core needs, more peripheral uses for the units are mass gatherings in remote locations, such as large music festivals that are a popular occurrence in the area.

The units are designed to deal with anywhere from “low acuity” needs like cuts and bruises to “higher acuity” like the setting of broken bones and emergency surgical intervention, said Kennedy.

Although the medical units have had an initial deployment, there is still much work to be done to raise awareness and further establish partnerships with local health authorities, with which the mobile teams will be working.

Currently, discussions are taking place in each of the six health authorities across B.C. to identify physicians and nurses interested in working with the mobile units, as well as to establish standards across the province.

Kennedy said best practices are also being reaped through discussions with health care stakeholders nationally.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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